Happy belated new year, everyone. Sorry for the lack of a new article last month, as I was busy trying to 100% Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which was created to keep up the hype train for the sequel to Breath of the Wild. The game was advertised to be a prequel that takes 100 years before the events of the first BotW game, as we’ve only seen bits of the events through flashback cutscenes. But once you’ve reached midway through the game, you realize that this wasn’t a prequel after all. In fact, we should’ve known it wasn’t one since the very beginning of the game, when we see the little egg guardian traveling back in time. At first, I thought the BotW timeline was following the fixed timeline theory, where any changes in the past were meant to happen and there’s nothing you can do to change the future, but once the descendants of the champions appeared from a time portal brought by the same guardian, I soon realize that it’s following the multiverse theory, where any changes in the past splits the timeline into multiple paths, just like the official Zelda timeline. And speaking of, this article will be focused on the many time travel shenanigans the series has implemented to explain said timeline and how none of this makes any sense in the grand scheme of things.
Ocarina of Time was the first Zelda game to have time travel involved with its plot, as well as being a similar gimmick used in a Link to the Past and its sequel, a Link Between Worlds, to travel between two different versions of Hyrule. Here, it looks to be following the dynamic timeline theory, where it’s a singular timeline and any changes to the past completely alters the future, because of the magic bean items you buy from the child timeline. They grow up into flying platform plants used to reach hard to reach areas containing goodies such as heart pieces in the adult timeline. But those plants don’t appear until you travel back into the child timeline and plant them there, thus altering the adult timeline now having those plants existing. Easy to understand for how this series’ time travel works, right? Well unfortunately, the game also throws in a bit of fixed timeline theory elements to it by having a disgruntled NPC at the Kakariko Windmill in the adult timeline ranting about a mean kid ruining the windmill with a certain song. This is also where you first learn to play the Song of Storms, so you can play the song again in the child timeline, revealing that you were the mean kid all along. One does not simply combine two different timeline theories because that’ll only create confusion towards your audiences if they think deep enough. It then gets worse in the game’s ending, where after you defeat Ganondorf and save Hyrule in the adult timeline, Zelda uses the ocarina of time to send Link back to his child timeline, which apparently splits the timeline in half, thus adding the multiverse theory into the mix to further complicate things on how time travel works in this series.
In the following sequel, Majora’s Mask, you are limited to 3 days to save Termina from getting crushed by the moon summoned by Skull Kid, possessed by the titular mask, and doing so requires traveling back, using the ocarina of time, to the first day over and over again to help the region’s residents while waking up the four giants to stop the moon. This game follows the time loop theory, where a character is trapped to repeat the same day over and over again until he/she/they find a way to break the time loop, thus adding a fourth timeline theory to further confuse audiences because if we’re to believe the series follows multiverse theory, then Link has pretty much doomed Termina in the other timelines he’s left. Originally, I thought the reason for all this was because of the ocarina of time itself. We know for a fact that it has magical properties, so it’s also possible that it also has the power to use whatever timeline theory it likes. But then it doesn’t explain the previous time travel changes in OoT where it wasn’t used, as well as the next Zelda title we’ll be talking about.
Skyward Sword, which is currently the first game in the official timeline, is another Zelda title that has time travel involved, by introducing the existence of time gates after completing the third dungeon. The game follows the fixed timeline theory where Zelda enters one of the time gates to the past to seal herself in crystal form for decades until Demise, Ganondorf’s earliest incarnation, is fully destroyed in the present time. This implies that two Zeldas exist during beginning events of the game: one who is thriving in Skyloft, and another who is sealed at the surface world. This is further cemented by the very end of the game where Impa, a recurring supporting character in the series, decides to guard the master sword in the past, and when Link and co. return to their present time, it turns out that the old lady who’s been helping Link throughout the game since he’s stepped foot on the surface world was Impa all along. This is surprisingly the most straightforward use of time travel compared to later games that chronologically came after it, further implying that the fixed timeline is the canon theory if not for the other time traveling devices such as the ocarina of time that adds in other timeline theories into the mix. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been a problem if there wasn’t an official Zelda timeline in the first place and all titles are in their own self-contained timelines, still staying true to how there’s always a different Link, a different Zelda, and a different Ganon.
And that’s how the Breath of the Wild timeline feels like: a complete reboot to the series containing the best elements from the other timelines, combined with its own unique elements into the fray. Age of Calamity may be a case of false advertising from Nintendo’s behalf, but at least we know its use of time travel won’t have any major effects to the story in the upcoming sequel, apart from possible DLC characters who will debut from said sequel for AoC, knowing that it’ll still take place in the original timeline.